THE largest increase to council tax Pembrokeshire has ever seen is set to go ahead after it was unanimously backed by cabinet today (Monday).

Cabinet were asked to approve one of three options in a council tax increase to go to full council for a final decision.

The option of a 12.5 per cent rise was backed over options of five per cent or eight per cent.

Cabinet member for finance Cllr Bob Kilmister told members the increase equated to a £2.11 a week increase or £111 a year rise on an average band D property.

“That seems more palatable than 12.5 per cent,” said Cllr Kilmister.

He told the meeting that there was a £16.4m funding gap for 2018/19 and despite “identified cost reductions” of £10m something still needed to be done to avoid cuts to services.

“I’m absolutely determined we do the right thing and not dodge the issue. We have to make a step change on our council tax levels,” he added.

The council budget had been debated at all overview and scrutiny committee with the “majority view that 12.5 per cent was the correct aim”. Two members voted for eight per cent.

“More information was provided than ever before and I hope the quality has been better than before,” said Cllr Kilmister.

The matter has also been subject to a public consultation with more than 1,300 people taking part. It runs until February 16.

Facebook Live events have also been held, reaching tens of thousands of residents and bringing in hundreds of comments.

“I’m looking forward to seeing what that consultation actually says,” added the cabinet member.

Cllr Kilmister added: “I never thought when I took on this role that I would be recommending taking on such a large council tax rise.”

Pembrokeshire having the lowest council tax in Wales - something regularly lauded by the previous administration - had left the county £15m worse off than if council tax was at the average level in Wales, the meeting heard.

Cllr Phil Baker added: “I think people realise they’d rather see a 12.5 per cent increase than decimating cuts to services.”

Council leader Cllr David Simpson said if a 12.5 per cent rise in the first 12 months of his role had been known he would have “walked out the door” but having listened to the figures and information he backed the increase.

“There are going to be some people that moan and groan about it but when it comes to £2 a week for the services we want to protect and the people we want to help we have to do it.”

Full council will discuss the 12.5 per cent proposed rise on March 8.